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Theme Statement

"Rethink, Restructure, and Reconnect: Towards A Post-Pandemic Political Science"

APSA President-Elect: John Ishiyama, Professor of Political Science, University of North Texas (UNT)

Conference Program Co-Chairs: Sherri L. Wallace, Professor of Political Science, University of Louisville (UofL) Pei-Te Lien, Professor of Political Science (affiliated with Asian American Studies, Feminist Studies & Black Studies), University of California-Santa Barbara (UCSB)

The convergence of a global pandemic, deepening political polarization, and mass organized protests demanding social justice and systemic change has propelled interest in politics to a historic high. The COVID-19 deadly virus amply upset the balance in higher education, causing universities to suddenly shift to online formats, close campuses, or cease operations. Students, isolated or sent home for remote learning, experienced the consequences acutely and directly. Faculty, separated from colleagues and support staff, pivoted to online course delivery or socially-distanced, in-person teaching methods. Academic conferences were delivered on virtual platforms or canceled altogether, depriving scholars of the ability to exchange ideas face-to-face, a critical part of what we do. Other challenges have preceded or emerged contemporaneously with this pandemic—in particular, how to conduct research in a more transparent way and the rapidly changing world of academic publishing with the move towards open access. Yet, there are also myriad opportunities and lessons learned to restructure political science as we approach the post-pandemic era.

Tumultuous times like these cause us to rethink almost everything about our discipline— from how we teach our students, publish and make our research engaging for a broader public, serve our colleagues and communities, influence policymakers and stakeholders to how we run our professional conferences. In many ways, the teaching of political science is more critical now than ever before, not least of all because we teach skills that produce leaders and promote an informed, engaged citizenry. Even with the rising demand for greater emphasis on career-readiness skills, there is still demand for training associated with liberal arts education competencies like critical thinking, communication skills, global/intercultural fluency, and the existing emphasis on leadership and teamwork. Our students (should) learn quantitative reasoning and how to diagnose, analyze or solve a problem, come up with alternatives based on evidence, mobilize support for their initiatives and actions, or use ethical insights to guide the use of power to achieve desired ends. These skills are sorely needed now throughout civil society, not just within the public discourse or levels of the public sector but also in the private and nonprofit sectors. Given the state of public discourse, it is necessary to reemphasize or refocus political science scholarship and education on: 

  • (1) what it means to produce and teach leadership and accountability and 
  • (2) how the discipline can build upon existing best practices and new innovations to redirect or reconnect polarizing discourses.

The overall theme for the 2022 APSA Annual Meeting will focus on the various ways in which our discipline has to rethink, reconstruct, and reconnect in the post-pandemic era. This is an immensely exciting time. Though we face profound challenges, we also have unprecedented opportunities to reimagine a more robust political science regarding how we do research or publish, teach, and impact the political world around us. Looming trends indicate an emergent diverse demographic of students who expect solutions to pressing societal issues related to equity, inclusion, and social justice in democracies to a peaceful international order. How can new (or renewed) research agendas and instructional pedagogy produce leaders and accountability and prepare an informed, engaged citizenry to (re-)emerge into society? What is the new “normal” for a post-pandemic political science?

In keeping with APSA’s goals of and respect for diversity, inclusion, and access throughout the profession, we encourage you to include a statement in the call that expresses respect for diversity and recognizes the importance of multiplicity in approach and interdisciplinarity from a wideranging collection of scholars.